On watching Vikings

So I’m reading Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years. Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. And one of the many fascinating things that stands out to me is how vitally important slaves captured during conflicts were to the household economies.

It takes a lot of spinning to make enough thread or yarn for weaving. And it takes a lot of weaving to make cloth for a household, let alone enough cloth to sell or trade.

Women and children, and a few men, captured in conflicts and then enslaved, were rolled into households as a matter of course. They became the retters and spinners, the grain-grinders and bread-makers. The endless damn work of basic existence, of being fed and protected from the elements — these fundamental tasks frequently fell to slaves.

So I’m watching Vikings because season four just started, and I am trying to spot what the slaves are doing in the background. There they are, if you look for half a moment. There they are, preparing food and making cloth, tending animals, watching children, spinning, weaving, grinding grain.

Whatever historical inaccuracies Vikings is taking with the plot and the main characters, the background is remarkably historically re-created.


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